New Zipcode

Oddly enough, the thing I missed the most while moving apartments wasn’t, say, the lack of couch space to occupy, or the fact that we’d disconnected our TV, or that all the books were gone.

It was that I wasn’t cooking.

Like many of the things in my life, I’ve been wrong about how much I would like cooking. It’s surprisingly soothing to have a process to follow and things to chop and at the end, you can eat what you make! It’s the perfect hobby, really. Apart from reading.

Unless books were edible.

Do they make edible books? Like, a chapter-by-chapter menu? GAH.

I’d love to attend a novel-themed meal. Pick any Enid Blyton book and someone or the other will be consuming afternoon tea, so really, you can’t go wrong.

Anyway.

I realized how much I’d missed it when I went over to a friend’s place for dinner and made it a couple of hours earlier so I could help him. Acting as sous chef is great when the other person knows what they need to be doing and you’re good at taking direction, or don’t feel particularly rebellious at the moment.

That dinner turned out to be incredibly interesting — and it turned into a very long evening, of course — because we broke out Risk.

If you haven’t played it before, Risk is a board game of world domination. The country boundaries are a bizarre mix of modern and 19th century — as if there’s an Irkutsk region anymore* — and the winner is the player who occupies every single territory in the world at the end of the game. For reasons that will become clear shortly, this is practically impossible to do in under ten hours, between six people.

Here’s how Risk is meant to be played:

  1. At the start of the game, each player gets 20 individual soldiers and for each turn, picks a territory to occupy.
  2. At the beginning of each round, each player gets a minimum of 3 soldiers and can place them anywhere they want to reinforce their troops.
  3. Then the player whose turn it is can wage war against another player, and depending on how the dice fall, can win territories or lose soldiers.
  4. Rinse and repeat for many, many rounds.

Here’s how Risk is actually played:

  1. Spend 15 minutes reading out the rules and arguing over whether the “multiple battles per round” rule makes any sense at all. Spend almost as much time placing the initial soldiers because everyone knows there is a strategy; no one know what it is yet.
  2. At the beginning of every round, argue over the finer points of the rules. Consult with anyone who is not arguing about the validity of your own soldier placements.
  3. Wage war! But not before another half an hour of guessing the other players’ territory occupations, potential motives, personality quirks and Freudian tendencies. If you are the player being waged war against, listen to other players’ breakdown of your deepest insecurities. Calmly, if possible.
    1. If you are me, attempt to capture a territory occupied by exactly one soldier, with a territory manned by at least 4 soldiers. With incredible, exhaustively bad luck of the dice, lose 3 of the 4 soldiers in successive runs. Listen to the opponent insist that “he really just wanted to forfeit the soldier and didn’t think this would happen”. Explain this is not helping matters.
  4. Periodically, decide who has the most influence over the board and/or has exhibited prior talent playing other games with some subset of the current players. Gang up against this player to prevent them from winning.

Despite the madness of starting to play Risk, it’s an excellent intellectual game. It becomes particularly interesting when your opponent starts arguing about why you shouldn’t attack them and attack Europe instead, because look at how many open border it has. There’s additional subtlety based on which continents one takes over and how many extra soldiers per round that garners you. If you’re very, very good, I suspect you can take over continents quietly without anyone really noticing and then launch a massive attack for the entire world.

Then again, the game is so slow that your opponents will probably notice that you now own South America and most of Africa, at which point you will be played to a stalemate, or to some point where the refreshments run out, whichever comes first.

Or when everyone literally falls asleep.

 

Note: So… Irkutsk exists. It’s just considered its own territory in the Asia/Russia landmass of Risk.

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